Director: Christopher Nolan
Screenplay By: Jonathan Nolan,Christopher Nolan
Release Date: July 18, 2008
Run Time: 152 minuets
This is widely considered to be not just the best Batman movie, but the best superhero movie of all time. After rewatching the movie I have to say, that is hard to argument against. While the film isn’t perfect it comes pretty close. Even when the cast is forced through Nolan’s “realism” filter he still demonstrates that he has a clear understanding of the characters and what makes them interesting and memorable. Hell, even though this is what started DC and Warner Bros. obsession with dark and grim movies this still has scenes of pure hope. So why is this movie so highly regarded? Does it deserve to be? Lets find out.
The film starts with a robbery committed by a group of men in clown masks. We soon learn that these men are working for The Joker and the bank they are robbing is a drop off point for the mafia. As each of the five men complete their part of the job another of the group kills them. The group whittles itself down until it’s just one man who turns out to be the Joker the whole time. After the Joker makes his escape we cut to Batman and Jim Gordon investigating the robbery.
They find some lightly irradiated bills Batman gave to the police to make drug buys with. Batman and Gordon chose to ignore the Joker and focus on the mob, as the banks that was robed made the fifth their drug money has turned up in. As Batman says, what is one man compared to the entire mob?
We move then to a courtroom where Harvey Dent (Aaron Eckhart) is prosecuting a member of the Falcony crime family. And this scene is trying just a little too hard to show us how noble Dent is in my opinion. The man he is questioning manages to sneak in a gun. Dent effortlessly manages to disarm the witness, is in no way shaken by the event and still want to keep questioning him. By now we all know that Dent’s fall into villainy is one of the more important parts of Batman lore and it has a lot of thematic relevance, but here the man is basically a Marry Sue in the worst possible way. Make him incorruptible, sure. But having him seem to not care that he was almost shot, that’s just makes this all seem silly.
I’m going to skip over a lot here, not because any of it is bad or not worth talking about, but like with the last film this is just a very dense movie. The Joker offers the Mob to kill Batman for them for ½ of their money. After one of the head men is caught they agree to hire The Joker and from this point on all hell brakes lose. Now, when Heath Ledger was cast as the Joker a lot of people didn’t think it was going to work out. But there are two scenes that sell me personally every time I see them. The first is when he kills one of “the sons of batman”. It’s a recording the Joker sends in to the news, calling for Batman to turn himself in, and for every day batman doesn’t someone will die. Ledger performance here is terrifying. When he delivers his last line “I’m a man of my word” and starts laughing while he kills the Batman imitator, even though it’s all off screen, Ledger makes me shudder from the intensity every time I watch the scene. The second scene is the second story he tells about how got his scares. Now, each story is good and well told and could have been great looks into the Jokers mind, but I like the way this plays to the Jokers Origin the same way that Alan Moore’s “The Killing Joke” did. In that comic the Joker says that he remembers his origin one way one some days and another way on other day. And that’s kind of what’s going one here. But what I like about this so much is how into Heath Ledger clearly is. He just sells the hell out both these scenes.
After a few people have died Batman tells Dent that he will turn himself in, but in a twist Dent says that it was him. This spawns a huge car chase and probably my favorite part of the movie. As the Joker tried to kill Dent,
Bruce obviously suits up and saves him. Once this is over and the joker gets caught, he uses his Mob connections to kidnap Dent and his lover, Rachel Dawes (who yes, was also Bruce’s lover as well, but I haven’t mentioned here before now because she adds nothing to wither this or Batman Begins). The Joker has the two set up in abandoned buildings on opposite sides of the city and each is rigged with explosives. And if you don’t know what’s coming you’ve obviously never read a comic or watched a movie before. Rachel dies for having committed the sin of being a woman in a superhero movie while Batman saves Dent, but only after half his face is burned.
Dent then goes on a rampage trying to find and bring to justice the people, both in the mob and the police force that were responsible for Rachel’s death. But this experience has taught him that the law is not the key to justice. The only real justice is completely random chance.
Now, this is one of the things that makes this film as good as it is. Even though Two Face is responsible for a lot of the plot momentum in the second half of the film, he isn’t in much of the movie. He’s presence is known, his threat is felt, but he doesn’t take up much of the run time, allowing the film to focus on the more interesting parts of the plot.
As the Joker’s plot is creating more and more panic throughout the city, two boats are leaving the city, one filled with convicts and one with civilians. Each boat is rigged with explosives and each as the detonator to the other boat. The Joker lets out a call saying that by midnight either one boat blows up the other or he will destroy both. The part of the movie I love so, so much. While both groups do question wither or not to do it, but in the end neither group can go through with it. And that is part of what makes this movie so special. It doesn’t pull it’s punches, sure, but by trying to be “realist” it remembers that real life can be uplifting at times too. And even when the Joker does go to blow up both the boats, Batman does manage to stop him.
The film concludes with Dent threatening Gordon’s family. In order to save one of Gordon’s sons Batman ends up pushing Dent over a ledge, killing him. Gordon and Batman decide that Batman will take the fall for Dent’s killings so that his reputation isn’t tarnished and the criminals he put away don;t get a chance to get out. Yeah, the movie ends on a bit of a downer. But so does a lot of great movies (“Empire Strikes Back” anyone?).
This is a really good movie. There are a few things holding it back from being truly perfect but they are all incredibly small things. They are the kind of things that may go unnoticed by others or may even not bother other people. In the end, I will agree that this is the best Batman movie and maybe even the best DC movie, but I can’t quite say the best superhero movie. But this is good. Damn good. Join me tomorrow as I take a look at “The Dark Knight Rise” as “Batman vs Superman Month” comes to a close.